How to choose professional associations
Joining an industry organization can help advance your career, so it’s no wonder there are close to a 100,000 professional and trade associations in the country, according to the American Society of Association Executives.
It’s important not just to join a group because it has your profession’s name in the title, though. Because so many associations exist, you need to sort through the choices and pick the ones that can actually make a difference in your career — whether that means providing networking opportunities or offering cache for your resumé.
Here are five ways to find the right professional associations for you:
Question your peers.
A good starting point is finding out which organizations your peers belong to, advises Mark Logan, a member of half a dozen professional associations and area chair for the University of Phoenix College of Criminal Justice and Security at the Northern Virginia Campus.
Ask people with similar jobs and positions what associations or organizations they’ve joined. You will improve professionally by sharing ideas with people in the right group, Logan says, adding that you can share valuable information on dealing with the challenges of your profession.
Concentrate on your specialty.
It’s better if you can find an association that deals with your niche rather than your overall field. Logan uses the example of a bomb technician joining the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators and not just a general law enforcement group.
“You’ll be able to network and share information to make your job a lot easier so you can advance in your own organization,” Logan says. “You’re trying to enhance your applied knowledge base and to be more marketable for whatever the future holds.”
Look for mentorship opportunities.
Logan suggests choosing an association that has members who are willing to be mentors and share their experiences. An even better option: an association with formalized mentor programs.
You want to attend meetings and establish personal relationships over the course of monthly meetings, so pick an association that has a chapter near you. Email and monthly newsletters from a group aren’t enough, Logan explains, stressing the importance of face-to-face interaction.
Seek scholarship offerings.
Most schools have a department or administrator that keeps track of scholarships from professional organizations, explains Amanda Hendricks, manager of the University’s external scholarship program. She receives scholarship information from a variety of professional associations.
“They want to encourage members to obtain additional education to make themselves more marketable and advance in the industry,” she notes, adding that they also want to encourage new people to join their industry.